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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

Country Details

Netherlands

  • Ms. Zhen Zhen Zheng v. The Netherlands, Netherlands, CEDAW Committee, 2007.
    Petitioner was trafficked into the Netherlands and request for asylum was denied because she could not give details about her trip from China and did not have identity documents.  Although the Committee held complaint to be inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, the dissent found that due to vulnerable situation of victims of trafficking, the complaint should be admissible and that the State did not act with due diligence in failing to recognize that Ms. Zheng may have been victim of trafficking.
  • Ms. Dung Thi Thuy Nguyen v. The Netherlands, Netherlands, CEDAW Committee, 2006.
    Dung Thi Thuy Nguyen worked part-time as a salaried employment agency worker as well as together with her husband as a co-working spouse in his enterprise. For her salaried employment, Nguyen was insured under the Sickness Benefits Act (ZW), and for work at her husband’s enterprise she was insured under the Invalidity Insurance (Self-Employed Person) Act (WAZ). When Nguyen applied for maternity leave in 1999, she received benefits from her ZW insurance, but her WAZ insurance denied her coverage because of an “anti-accumulation clause” which allowed payment of benefits only insofar as they exceed benefits payable under the ZW policy. Nguyen objected to the withholding of her benefits and applied for review with the Breda District Court, who dismissed the complaint. The Central Appeals Tribunal upheld the lower judgment on appeal, stating that the WAZ insurance policy did not result in unfavorable treatment of women as compared to men. Nguyen’s complaint to the Committee cited a violation of article 11, paragraph 2 (b) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women under which the State party is obligated to introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority, or social allowance. The Committee held that it is state’s discretion to determine the appropriate maternity benefits within the meaning of article 11 for employed women, and separate rules for self-employed women accounting for fluctuated income and related contributions did not amount to a violation. The dissent, however, argued that the law of the Netherlands which provides for a financially compensated maternity leave for women who are both salaried and self-employed does not take into account the situation of these women who work more hours per week than a full-time salaried employee entitled to full maternity benefits. The anti-accumulation clause, therefore, constitutes indirect sex-discrimination because the policy assumes that mainly women work as part-time salaried employees in addition to working as family helpers in their husband’s enterprises.
  • S.W.M. Broeks v. the Netherlands, Netherlands, Human Rights Committee, 1987.
    S.W.M. Broeks, a married Netherlands national, worked as a nurse for several years before her employer dismissed her for reasons of disability. Broeks received benefits under the Netherlands social security system for five years before her unemployment payments were terminated under Netherlands law. Broeks contested the termination in domestic courts, but the Central Board of Appeal confirmed the decision of a lower municipal court not to continue unemployment payments to Broeks. In her complaint to the Committee, Broeks claimed that the Netherland’s Unemployment Benefits Act (WWV) made an unacceptable distinction on the grounds of sex and status, and discriminated against her as a woman in violation of article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under which all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to its protections. Broeks argued that because she was a married woman at the time of the dispute, the law excluded her from continued unemployment benefits. Under section 13 subsection 1 of the Unemployment Benefits Act (WWV), a married women, in order to receive WWV benefits, had to prove that she was a “breadwinner” – a condition that did not apply to married men. The Committee concluded that the differentiation that appears to be one of status is actually one of sex, placing married women at a disadvantage compared with married men, amounting to a violation of article 26 of the Covenant.
  • Zwaan-de Vries v. The Netherlands, Netherlands, Human Rights Committee, 1987.
    F.H. Zwaan-de Vries is a Netherlands national who worked for several years before becoming unemployed. Zwaan-de Vries qualified for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Act until 1979, at which time she applied for continued support through the Unemployment Benefits Act (WWV). The Municipality of Amsterdam rejected her application in accordance with section 13 subsection 1 of WWV (the “breadwinner” clause) because she was a married woman. The WWV provision that required applicants to prove that they are the family’s “breadwinner” in order to qualify for benefits did not apply to married men. On appeal, the Municipality of Amsterdam affirmed the rejection, after which the author appealed to the Board of Appeal in Amsterdam. The Board of Appeals held that Zwaan-de Vries’ complaint was invalid, and the Central Board of Appeal affirmed this holding. In her complaint to the Committee, Zwaan-de Vries argued that the Netherlands violated article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under which all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In interpreting the scope of article 26, the Committee took into account the “ordinary meaning” of each element of the article in its context and in light of its object and purpose, noting that article 26 derives from the principle of equal protection of the law without discrimination as contained in article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, article 26 is concerned with the obligations imposed on States in regard to their legislation and its application. The Committee cited Hendrika Vos v. The Netherlands for the principle that differentiation based on reasonable and objective criteria does not amount to prohibited discrimination within the meaning of article 26. However, since the WWV required only women to prove their status as “breadwinner”, the differentiation was not reasonable. Therefore, the Netherlands violated article 26 of the Convention when it denied Zwaan de Vries a social security benefit on an equal footing with men.
  • Vos v. The Netherlands, Netherlands, Human Rights Committee, 1986.
    The Committee held that differences of treatment based on reasonable and objective criteria do not amount to prohibited discrimination.